Jadie Wick of Hermiston, a registered nurse on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle and soon-to-be nurse practitioner, was Gov. Kate Brown’s honoree for the statewide virtual commencement on Sunday, June 14.
The commencement address, titled “Celebrating the Class of 2020,” highlighted Wick and the work she’s done for her community during the global pandemic.
“The Governor felt it was important to highlight inspiring stories from all across the state, celebrating the work of Oregon graduates who showed grit, resolve, and determination during this global pandemic,” said Nikki Fisher, press secretary and public engagement advisor for Brown. “Jadie’s story is a great example of how hardworking students from across the state, and in rural Oregon, are contributing to build a brighter future for our great state.”
At the start of the pandemic, Wick was working as an emergency room nurse at Good Shepherd Medical Center, screening possible COVID-19 patients. Each shift, a specific nurse was assigned to solely take care of every suspected COVID-19 patient that came into the ER. She said it was a method used to help limit exposure to others. Testing results at the time took five to seven days, so patients who appeared to have symptoms consistent with the virus were treated as if they were positive.
It was her turn to be that nurse.
Wick recalled how she felt prepared to deal with screening possible COVID-19 patients and said the hospital provided her and other nursing staff with appropriate personal protective equipment.
“I thought I would be scared because it is this big, new, scary virus but I felt well-equipped,” Wick said. “In the heat of the moment, I wasn’t scared.”
Born and raised in Hermiston, Wick graduated from Hermiston High School in 2010 and went on to pursue a career in nursing. She received her bachelor’s degree in science and nursing from Linfield College and soon after, she attended OHSU’s Master’s in Family Nurse Practitioner program at the La Grande campus, a program she graduated from on Sunday alongside her cohort. This 2020 cohort is the first graduating class from this specific campus.
Wick currently works at Good Shepherd and also at Hermiston Family Health Associates. She has been a nurse since 2016 and attributes her start to her grandfather, who passed away from a viral infection. It’s this incident that sparked her determination to pursue a career in health care.
“My grandpa was someone who I never got the chance to meet, but I’ve heard these amazing stories about him,” she said. “It is one of the underlying reasons why I chose this profession. I’ve always liked caring for people and meeting people, and wanting to alleviate pain and suffering. It’s always been my career choice. I’ve never wanted to do anything else but this.”
One of Wick’s main goals as a nurse practitioner is to eventually get certified in areas lacking here in Hermiston. She explained that because Hermiston is a rural community, its members don’t often have the same resources as larger cities like Portland.
“There are different areas that require nurse practitioners to be specially certified in order to care for types of patients,” she said. “That’s a goal of mine, to get certified in as many areas as possible that fits the needs of Hermiston and the surrounding communities so they don’t have to travel to big cities to seek care and can stay here locally and have their needs met.”
Initially what kept Wick in Hermiston is her family and friends. Her father also graduated from Hermiston High School and their family are longtime Hermistonians. Although she was born there, Wick said it’s her attachment to the community and the bonds she formed along the way that made her want to stay in her hometown. She recalled memories of her sledding on the snow-covered Hermiston Butte in the winter, playing soccer at the local fields and getting to meet people who inspire her.
“This place is very much home to me, and my family is here, and I get to meet all of these amazing [community members],” she said. “I don’t want to live anywhere else.”
Although Wick is dedicated and inspired by her field of work, she also spoke of its challenges, specifically citing workplace violence, physical and emotional stress and fluctuating schedules, all while caring for her 8-year-old daughter.
“Nurses are frequently punched or kicked or spit at and they’re put in these situations where their lives are threatened,” she said. “In the ER, there are different types of scenarios where patients become violent toward nurses and that’s a huge stress that every nurse has to deal with, no matter what hospital they’re working at. It’s something unfortunate that comes along with the job even though it shouldn’t.”
When asked what keeps her going, Wick talked about her family, specifically her daughter.
“Without her, I don’t think I would have had the drive or motivation to even apply to graduate school,” Wick said. “She has been my motivation through all of this, wanting to make her proud and show her that if you put your mind to something, to give your all.”
Outside of nursing, Wick enjoys running, swimming, hanging out with her dogs and spending time with her family.
Wick graduated along with her cohort in Sunday’s virtual ceremony as a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.
“I’m super proud of her,” her father Mike Wick said. “She worked really hard to achieve that accomplishment and recognition. I’m very excited for her to enter the next phase of her life.”
Upon passing her nursing board exams in October, Wick is planning to officially work as a nurse practitioner at a local family medicine clinic in Hermiston.
“The OHSU School of Nursing is proud of Jadie Wick ... Jadie’s new role as a nurse practitioner will enable her to increase rural and regional access to primary care,” dean of the OHSU School of Nursing Susan Bakewell-Sachs said
Wick said she will be able to prescribe, diagnose and work as an independent provider with autonomy and the ability to practice medicine the way that best serves the patients and her community.
Brown’s 2020 statewide commencement address aired on OPB radio Sunday.
Many students in the cohort graduating alongside Wick also worked as nurses during the pandemic while going through the program. She said a majority of her cohort felt guilt and debated taking time off from the program to care for COVID-19 patients.
“I mean that’s why we went into this profession,” she said. “We all want to help people and feel this drive to want to alleviate pain and suffering.”